Kaz an Nou, 53 Sixth Ave, Prospect Heights
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
People are protective of Kaz an Nou. This cozy little French-Guadalupan spot opened quietly in Prospect Heights in early springtime. For a moment, it was a hidden gem, known only to locals and friends of the charming owner/chef/host/server Sebastian Aubert, formerly of Ivo & Lulu in Soho. Now that word has gotten around about the place, the neighbors face long waits for tables. Forced to hover outside the restaurant, where perpendicularly parked cars back up over the sidewalk, the regulars clutch their B.Y.O. bottles and curse the bloggers and critics who let the cat out of the bag.
Once inside, everything slows down. Fans spin overhead. Plaid curtains and potted plants make the space feel like a friend's dining room. Tea light candles, which fit snugly into divots in the red-painted tables, cast a homey glow. Kaz an Nou, a Creole phrase, aptly translates to "our house." Mr. Aubert finds time to linger at each table as he takes orders, speaking in the first-person about how he prepares each item, asking guests if they're "escargot virgins" and recommending his version of the dish ($7) either way. The curried garlic butter balances the flavor for novices, and seasoned snail-eaters will find that he gets the texture just right. During our visit, he was also talking up a special—sweet potato and cod fritters ($6). Crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, they paired perfectly with their aioli dipping sauce.
The dinner menu is short, simple and affordable—both lamb lasagna and smoked jerk chicken are priced at $13, and the most expensive item on the menu is the duck confit with mango jerk sauce for $15. The juicy $11 burger, mounded with melted cheese and avocado salsa, is even better if you pay an extra buck for a fried egg. Despite the wallet-friendly prices, all of the meat products are organic and free-range. The galette ($10) is a "free-form tart"—a scatter of crisp pastry leaves topped with caramelized onions, sweet roasted squash, and creamy goat cheese. It's a satisfying and elegant vegetarian dish that doesn't feel like an afterthought.
You can easily order three courses without running up the bill—the only challenge is saving room for dessert ($6 each). The spicy chocolate cake and mango mousse draw from West Indian flavors, while the cr√®me br√ªl√ and tart tatin end the meal on a traditional French note. And while some may wish that Kaz an Nou were still a neighborhood secret, I can't help but feel that a place this warm and comforting is something that ought to be shared.
Kaz an Nou